Yankees going all in with jaw-dropping Jasson Dominguez
The Yankees’ path to signing Jasson Dominguez as a 16-year-old and giving him a whopping $5 million bonus began two years ago and Donny Rowland, the team’s director of international scouting, recalled on Wednesday his introduction to Dominguez as a hitter.
“[He’s] an elite-level athlete with elite baseball tools and the first time I saw him it was evident,’’ Rowland said on a conference call Tuesday. “He’s the kind of player that makes the hair on your arm stand up when you watch him. When you watch him work out, when you watch him move and when you watch him play in games, he has a plethora of well-above average tools across the board that we hope, in time, will translate into usable skills at the major league level.”
Rowland and the organization thought highly enough of Dominguez that they spent most of their $5.4 million international bonus pool on him this year.
He noted Dominguez’s build, tools and athleticism “made going ‘all-in’ on him an easy decision.”
“Very rarely would I go that route,’’ Rowland said. “We like to diversify and have volume, but in this case and every now and then, the right player comes along where this one’s worth it. To a man, every one of my staff agreed and [general manager Brian Cashman] signed off.”
Dominguez was a catcher coming up and Rowland believes he could play shortstop as a pro, but he said there’s “no doubt” his future is as a center fielder, but it’s his bat that stood out most to Rowland.
“The hardest thing to do in sports is hit and the second hardest thing to do is figure out who’s gonna hit,’’ Rowland said.
And while scouts have thrown around names like Yasiel Puig — and even Mike Trout — when talking about Dominguez’s future, Rowland passed.
“I don’t like to put comparisons like that on a 16-year-old player,’’ Rowland said. “I would never do that. I think he gonna be Jasson Dominguez.”
Dominguez will enter the Yankees’ system to begin his career as a professional, where Rowland hopes his growth continues.
“How it turns out and where he winds up being compared, hopefully 20 years from now, I think that will all take care of itself,’’ Rowland said.
But Rowland added that unlike most prospects Dominguez’s age, he is advanced physically.
“His body is strong now,’’ Rowland said. “He’s not a typical projection player, where we’re hoping in three to four years his tools are there. They’re already there. He’s strong now.”
And that brings us back to Rowland’s initial thoughts on Dominguez.
“It was a bit hard to believe he was as good as I was seeing two years ago,’’ Rowland said. “I kept asking our scouts, who I trust, ‘Is this what you’re seeing on a daily basis?’ The answer was yes. It was a bit shocking and very impressive. Over time, he continued to show the same — and better — tools and performance.”
Still, there’s no guarantee these expectations — which are shared by other organizations — will be met. For every Gary Sanchez, who signed with the Yankees in 2009 for $3 million, there are more Jesus Monteros, who got $1.6 million in 2006 and never lived up to the hype.
“He enters [the minor league system] with everyone else,’’ Rowland said. “He’ll tell us when he’s ready [to move up with his play]. There is no rush and there is no telling when that can happen. He’ll move as warranted.’’
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